Chernobyl and its surroundings are not the only places in the world where it is very dangerous to go due to pollution. There is also a place in the western regions of Australia called Wittenoom. To this day, it is still very dangerous to go there, and it has become the largest polluted area in the southern hemisphere of the world.
Wittenoom was once a busy mining town located 1,420 kilometers from Perth. Today, it was announced that the site and its surroundings, an area of 50 thousand hectares, are contaminated. The city has become uninhabitable due to blue asbestos mining.
Mining operations began in 1939, and before that only shepherds used the area. They first started mining in the Yampier Valley, and in 1943 mining also began in the Wittenum Valley. In 1947, a company town was established, which grew to become the largest city in the region by the 1950s. Don’t be fooled by this information. The city’s population peaked in 1961. At that time, 881 people lived in the settlement.
Wittenoom was the only supplier of blue asbestos in Australia. However, the mine was closed in 1966 because it was not profitable and health concerns about asbestos continued to grow. Today, the city receives no government services at all. In 2006, the Western Australian government revoked the city’s official status, essentially ending settlement.
As of 2007, the city is not marked on official maps, and there are no road signs showing the way there. In addition, roads were closed to prevent people from accidentally sneaking into contaminated areas. The city was completely closed in 2013, so access to the area is limited. Despite the closure, there are still two residents in the city until 2022. In 2023, the demolition of the city buildings began.
What makes blue asbestos so dangerous?
Asbestos is an inexpensive and widely available raw material that has been used by humanity for thousands of years. It did not begin to be extracted in large quantities until the nineteenth century. The mineral is silicate-based and consists of long fibers packed into clumps, but the clumps can be easily broken apart.
Asbestos has been used for thousands of years for a reason. It is an excellent insulating material, very strong, absorbs sound and is resistant to heat, fire, electricity and corrosive chemicals.
There are actually 6 different types of asbestos and each has a different effect. However, blue asbestos is the most dangerous because its fibers are long and sharp. Because of these properties, it is very easy to inhale fiber, which can cause damage to the body from the inside. If inhaled, small fibers get stuck in tissues, damaging them. This leads to inflammation, which later leads to health problems years later in case of prolonged exposure. Asbestos obviously has the greatest effect on the lungs, so inhaling it is the greatest risk.
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